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Who is Succeeding in the Canadian Labour Market? Predictors of Career Success for Skilled Immigrants (2019)

Posted on:
August 25, 2020

What is this research about?

In 2018, World Education Services (WES) conducted a survey-based study. They examined the demographic characteristics of skilled immigrants as well as their experience and education, and studied how these factors  affect their labour market outcomes. This report is based on that study. The study does not look at employer or demand side factors. It is intended to inform Canadian policy and practice with respect to skilled immigrants, and to increase awareness among prospective immigrants of the factors that are associated with labour force success.

What do you need to know?

The report has three sections:

Section one profiles the respondents’ age, gender, country of origin, entry class, province of residence, years of study, and pre- and post-migration work sector.

Section two examines respondents’ employment outcomes from two perspectives:

  1. It examines employment rates and analyzes key factors that affect employment rates, including age, gender, prior experience and sector, education, and the country where respondents earned their highest degree.
  2. It explores the extent to which employed respondents are doing work that is broadly commensurate with their previous education and experience. It also looks at related questions such  as whether respondents have been able to find work in the same sector and at the same level they had prior to immigrating.

Section three explores the implications of these findings for various audiences - policy makers, service providers, and prospective skilled immigrants - and identifies information gaps where further research is needed.

What did the researcher do?

The findings in this report are based on data collected from a sample of people who had applied to WES between 2013 and 2015 for an Educational Credential Assessment and who were  subsequently admitted to Canada as permanent residents. The data reflect the responses of 6,402 participants who resided in Canada at the time of the survey, all of whom had been admitted through one of the economic immigration categories now included under the Express Entry system.

What did the researcher find?

The survey results confirmed many of the trends in skilled immigrant employment outcomes that other research has revealed. However, the authors went further, exploring in greater depth those  results that related to employment commensurate with skills, experience, and education. They saw both encouraging outcomes and persistent challenges for immigrants who arrive in Canada  seeking work that leverages their skills, education, and experience.

On the positive side, more than 80 percent of survey respondents reported that they were employed, most of them in permanent jobs. This result aligns with Statistics Canada data, which show  that the unemployment rate for newcomers in 2017 was at its lowest since 2006.

At the same time, the authors note that many immigrants encountered challenges that prevented them from securing employment which fully leverages their skills, education, and experience. Only 39.1 percent of survey respondents had jobs with duties mainly similar in type and complexity to their pre-immigration jobs. Demographics, skills, education, and experience are among the  predictors of both employment status and the extent to which respondents had obtained commensurate employment.

How can you use this research?

While the gap between unemployment rates of immigrants and those of the Canadian-born has narrowed considerably, the study results indicate that many immigrants still encounter persistent  barriers to commensurate employment in the Canadian labour market. The results of this research point to many opportunities to further refine policies and practices so that skilled immigrants can more fully contribute their skills and education to the Canadian  workforce. Specifically, policy makers and practitioners need to gather information and data that will allow stakeholders to effectively address several key concerns:

  • Employer confidence in international experience: Respondents’ employment outcomes showed that their international work and academic experience was undervalued; providing evidence of  the potential for competency-informed assessments to help elucidate the relevant skills, knowledge, experience, and judgment of immigrant job seekers may help to remedy this situation.
  • Information: Immigrants continue to need more effective information about employment in Canada. There is an ongoing need to identify how to deliver realistic, specific, targeted, accurate,  and timely employment information to prospective and recent immigrants.
  • Access to regulated professions and trades: Despite successful interventions in this area such as profession-specific bridging programs, challenges persist. More evidence is needed to identify  which specific interventions, resources, and employer or regulatory practices enable immigrants to successfully navigate all the steps required to reenter a regulated occupation in Canada.
  • Services and interventions: All those working toward the integration of skilled immigrants need to collectively identify which specific employment services and service delivery models lead to the best results for skilled immigrant job seekers, and focus on services that elp immigrants develop social capital and professional connections.


This study is intended to inform Canadian policy and practice with respect to skilled immigrants, and to increase awareness among prospective immigrants of the factors that are associated with labour force success.